Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The reaction on Sunday when the Mets traded for Marcus Stroman was one of shock -- from fans to executives to reporters. Why would the Mets do such a thing? Was it part of a larger plan?
While acknowledging the shock waves the trade caused, it should be noted that no one really should have been that surprised.
Whether you agree with the Mets and Brodie Van Wagenen's decision last offseason to not rebuild and instead go for it, the acquisition of Stroman fits Van Wagenen's model of "win now and win in the future."
Van Wagenen also deserves credit for landing Stroman without giving up any Top 100 prospects.
But it can be argued that the trade for Stroman will only make sense if one of these three scenarios plays out...
Trade Zack Wheeler and keep Noah Syndergaard for 2020
Now that the Mets have basically cornered the market for starting pitching (holding Stroman, Wheeler, and Syndergaard, while Madison Bumgarner and Trevor Bauer could be off the market), it can be argued that the Stroman trade will lead to a better return for Wheeler.
If the Mets trade Wheeler and get back at least one highly thought of prospect in return, they will be recouping some of the prospect capital they lost when they traded Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson for Stroman, while setting up a 2020 rotation that contains Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, and Steven Matz as the front four.
DeGrom is under team control through the 2024 season, Syndergaard and Matz are under control through 2021, and Stroman is under control through 2020.
Trade Syndergaard and extend Wheeler or Stroman
This is the most tantalizing scenario, but also the one that is the most dangerous.
With Syndergaard, the Mets have the most sought after and most valuable starting pitcher on the market -- the only one available who has ace potential and more than one year of team control. And their cornering of the starting pitching market (as outlined above) can only help the potential return for him.
In a world where the Mets trade Syndergaard for a true haul of prospects and then turn around and extend Wheeler or Stroman long-term, they will arguably be much better off in 2020 and beyond than they would be by letting Wheeler walk (after 2019), letting Stroman walk (after 2020) and hanging on to Syndergaard.
In essence, by trading Syndergaard and extending either Wheeler or Stroman, the Mets would get a jolt to their farm system while still having a vaunted starting rotation for 2020 and beyond. And if the Mets choose to not move Syndergaard now, they can revisit a trade in the offseason.
Van Wagenen needs to be extremely careful here, though, and hold firm to a demand that any interested team sends at least one blue chip prospect and another potential impact prospect in return. In other words, Manuel Margot and Adrian Morejon as headliners from the Padres won't cut it.
Trade Wheeler and Syndergaard, sign a top free agent starter
If the Mets trade Wheeler and Syndergaard, they will likely be able to fully replenish a farm system that has taken hits with the Stroman trade and the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade that saw Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn shipped to Seattle.
It should be incredibly tempting to the Mets. But if they do it, they will basically have only deGrom as a rotation fixture beyond the 2020 season. Matz is under control through 2021, but can't be relied on as a top of the rotation piece.
In other words, the Mets would need to be dealing Wheeler and Syndergaard with an eye on signing a top tier starting pitcher in free agency this offseason.
The market this offseason is expected to include Gerrit Cole and Wheeler, and will include Stephen Strasburg if he exercises his opt out.
The ideal move in the above scenario would be for the Mets to sign Cole, who will be entering his age-29 season and is one of the Top 5 or so starting pitchers in the sport.
However, the Mets seemingly having an aversion to giving contracts of more than four years to any external free agent suggests they won't bite on Cole. Perhaps their aversion will change under this current plan.
And the Mets' current plan really isn't that crazy. They can contend next year if they play their cards right.
Still, the fact that the Mets can be a contender quickly doesn't mean it's unfair to wonder why they didn't simply rebuild instead of trying to thread the needle in so many different ways.
But with attempted contention being the course the Mets have chosen, the Stroman deal helps them toward that goal. And if they play their cards right in the coming days and months, they could find themselves in a very strong position for the 2020 season and beyond.